How to Exchange USD in Buenos Aires and More

As I’m writing this, I’m just a few hours away from boarding a plane to New Delhi, India to start a new stage of my life. As I wait in London’s hectic Heathrow Airport, I fondly remember the best memories of my time in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a city where I spent the last five months of my life.

I embarked on this South American journey on late February 2013, starting with a 4-week stay in Peru and Bolivia, followed by two weeks in Brazil and finally crossing the land border at Iguazú Falls in order to reach Buenos Aires, Argentina.

For five months, from May to September 2013, I enjoyed the best and worst than Argentina has to offer.

Sad clown in Buenos Aires

Sad clown in Buenos Aires

Working and Traveling abroad

This was the first time in my life that I was both working and traveling so it took me some time before adapting to my new lifestyle. For five months I was location dependent and had to adjust to a 9 to 6 work schedule, devoting only national holidays and weekends for my favorite activity of all:

Traveling and photography. Luckily for me, I loved the work I was doing (producer and creative planner at an Advertising firm), so every morning I woke up with all the energies that I would have when traveling abroad.

While I didn’t do much traveling within Argentina itself (I deeply regret missing out on an opportunity of visiting the Patagonia region), I fulfilled my life-long dream of going to Santiago, Chile and catching a somewhat economic flight to Easter Island, home of the enigmatic Moai heads and one of the new wonders of the world.

My week in that place taught me a lot of lessons about universal concepts such as freedom, humility and in the end, the difference between having a life of happiness or opting for a life of meaning. In future entries of A Journey of Wonders, I shall go in depth about my experiences in this island of magical dreams.

However, please do note that If you’re planning on using Argentina as your base of operations for traveling to other South American countries…you better think twice.

Flights in South America are extremely expensive when compared to flights in Europe or Eastern Asia. My Buenos Aires-Santiago flight costed me the same amount as my Paris-Cairo one. If you’re keen on exploring South America, I would definitely advice against using a base of operations and opt for instead traveling by land all the way, without any base whatsoever.

Urban sunset at Buenos AIres

Urban sunset at Buenos Aires

Tips for Future Expats

Besides the amazing night-life and its many cultural attractions, Buenos Aires itself is a wonderful city where expats like me are always finding new venues of opportunity and more in order to succeed more than in our home countries.

I could even go so far as to say that foreign people in Argentina have more opportunities than local people, mainly due to the government economic policies involving the official fixed rate of AR to USD and the difficulty in obtaining them, this, mixed with the ever-increasing inflation, allows for a black market of speculators to arise, mainly because the only way for Argentinians to secure one’s savings is to either buy a property or to buy USD.

The best suggestion I could give to all travelers and expats alike is to bring USD. I cannot capitalize enough on the importance of having dollars in Buenos Aires. In the black market you can gain a lot of money with the “arbolitos” (literally meaning trees), who are speculators who buy and sell dollars at an alternative rate (called the dollar blue) than the official one.

The reason for this being that in Argentina, you cannot legally buy dollars at the official rate (1 USD = 5.5 AR) unless you prove that you have an upcoming journey to other country and even then, you can only convert a fraction of your saving accounts into USD (after paying a fee, of course). Also, if you have an Argentinian bank account, you cannot withdraw USD (or any other foreign currency) when you’re traveling abroad, forcing you to pay with your credit/debit card (and paying an exorbitant fee for doing so).

Another method is to travel to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, a city located just a couple of hours away from Buenos Aires by boat. There, as long as you have a foreign credit/debit card, you can withdraw as many USD as you like and it is also good for renewing your 90 days tourist visa in case you haven’t obtained a resident visa yet.

I’ve met expats who have been living in Argentina with a tourist visa for more than four years!!! Also be aware that if you overstay your 90-days, you can always just pay 300 AR at any exit border and then get another 90 days upon re-entry. Amazing, isn’t it?

The weird sculptures of Argentina

The weird sculptures of Argentina

Farewell but not goodbye?

While I absolutely enjoyed every single minute of my Argentinian experience and I would definitely return should the opportunity arises, I must say that this is not a country meant for people who love to have a travel lifestyle like the one I’m used to.

Traveling within the country is very expensive and traveling abroad is even more so, plus, the price of the gadgets that I love to buy are extremely high when compared to North America or Europe (mainly due to the 21% consumption tax and the many restrictions of importing products from abroad).

Will this economic situation improve with a new government? I guess only time will tell but now, I have to board my airplane to New Delhi and enjoy my two-month Asian journey. Follow my adventures as I explore these different new cultures and share wonderful photographic moments with all of you and remember to always…

Travel. Explore. Dream.

The European artwork of Buenos Aires

The European artwork of Buenos Aires

Last but not least, don’t forget to use our Affiliate Link of Wonders for making hotel reservations.

Same price for you and a small pocket money commission for this website of yours.

Sweet deal, uh?

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18 Responses

  1. kellykorbel

    Did you ever check into using the long-distance buses? They are very economical (my reference year is 2010, so things could have changed) and much more comfortable than a plane, in my opinion. It took me 24 hours to get to San Carlos de Bariloche from BsAs and 14 hours to reach Mendoza, but it was about 1/4 the price of a flight and they give you meals and alcohol, plus the seats recline.

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      In 2013 the price was about 1/2 of the flight and I was unable to take that much time off because of work related reasons, on the only holiday I had I chose to spend some time in Easter Island instead :)

  2. A Southern Gypsy

    Ohhh useful! I haven’t gone to South America yet, but would mostly travel over land anyway. Good to know to stay away from flights if possible. :)

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      You and my both! I actually never got to the southern parts of Argentina because of money and time issues, it is unbelievable to think that a flight from Buenos Aires to Patagonia is more expensive than a flight from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro!

  3. Bemused Backpacker

    Great post as always! I really do want to get to Argentina and BA sometime soon! I can’t wait until I do! I hope you enjoy your Asian adventure just as much as you have your S.American one, India is unbelievable, you’ll have a fantastic time!

  4. asturiah

    Oh flying to New Delhi? That’s gonna be different!
    Somehow I always imagined Argentina quite expensive, good to know!

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      I’m actually back from my Indian trip (this article was written in October) and yes, the Argentinian economy is expected to plummet even more this 2014 so it will become cheaper and cheaper for foreign travelers (and extremely expensive for those Argentinians who want to travel abroad)!

  5. My Cup Of Travel

    Nice post although there are a lot of things to add to this list. I´m living here now for 5 months and will be staying at least 1.5 year mor =) I love it here.. Buenos Aires is amazing but yeah Argentina is not so foreign friendly… Anyway great post. This weekend I´m going to Colonia – visa renewal ;)

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      Hahaha so I take it you don’t have a work permit yet? I’ve been thinking about doing a follow up of this article and include all the places that give out freebies (most commonly drinks) to foreigners just for the sake of being foreigners :D

  6. Sharon @ Where's Sharon?

    Very jealous that you spent so long in Argentina – I have been to over 80 countries and it is my favourite!! Such an awesome place. I would love to live there for awhile one day.

  7. Marie

    This is extremely useful, thank you! I didn’t know the economic situation was *that* bad.